23 January 2014 by Published in: General News 20 comments

I wish that I could say that this exceptionally disturbing article surprises me, but sadly, it does not. Republican members of the Tennessee legislature have decided that it’s their duty to politicize the teaching of history to school children. Specifically, they’re attempting to indoctrinate school children by dictating how history is to be spun.

From the January, 22, 2014 edition of the The Tennessean newspaper:

History bill would emphasize interpretations favored by conservatives
Written by Chas. Sisk

State lawmakers are weighing a bill that would mandate how Tennessee students are taught U.S. history, with an emphasis on interpretations favored by conservatives.

House Bill 1129 would require school districts to adopt curriculums that stress the “positive difference” the United States has made in the world and “the political and cultural elements that distinguished America.” The measure also deletes a current guideline that encourages teaching about diversity and contributions from minorities in history classes.

The state Department of Education opposes the measure, saying curriculum decisions should be left to the State Board of Education and local school boards.

Backers of the legislation, a version of which has passed the Senate, say it remains a work in progress. But its main sponsor in the House, state Rep. Timothy Hill, conceded Wednesday that the measure is meant to leave students with certain beliefs, such as the view that the wording of the U.S. Constitution leaves no room for interpretation.

That legal theory, known as strict constitutionalism, generally has been used by conservatives to argue their side on a number of issues, including abortion, government regulation and gun rights.

The bill was filed last February, months before the current fights over textbooks and education standards erupted. It had moved through the legislature largely unnoticed until this week, quietly passing the Senate unanimously just seven days ago.

But it has been embraced by some lawmakers who have voiced concerns about bias in Tennessee textbooks. State Rep. Glen Casada, R-Franklin, backs the measure, which he said is similar to a bill he had planned to file himself.

Supporters say the bill ensures that Tennessee students learn about the country’s origins. The bill spells out that students would be taught about the Constitution and Declaration of Independence, as well as the nation’s achievements in a variety of fields and the “political and cultural” characteristics that contributed to its greatness.

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with talking in terms of we live in the greatest state in the greatest nation,” said Hill, R-Blountville.

But Remziya Suleyman, director of policy for the American Center for Outreach, a group that advocates on behalf of Muslims in Tennessee, said the bill might encourage districts to adopt history books that downplay or distort information about recent immigrants and religious minorities.

Meanwhile, state Rep. Harold Love, D-Nashville, said the bill seems to discourage discussion of the contributions of African-Americans, particularly those who were slaves.

“This part of our history I don’t think needs to be glossed over,” Love said.

Love and other lawmakers have asked Hill to agree to amend the measure before it moves further through the legislature. Both sides expect those changes to be worked out over the next few weeks.

Reach Chas Sisk at 615-259-8283 or on Twitter @chassisk.

Here is some of the pertinent language of this horrific piece of legislation:

Students shall be informed of the nature of America which makes it an exception differentiated by its behavior, influence and contributions from the other nations of the world.

The Constitution is the “rule book” for how the federal government works. No action is permitted unless permission for it can be found in the Constitution.

The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, with the Bill of Rights … still apply in exactly the words they originally contained in simple English.

All school district boards shall document and report to the commissioner their compliance with the content of courses as described.

Education should not be about political spin. It should be about teaching children to think on their own and to draw their own conclusions. This sort of indoctrination is extremely disturbing, and I sincerely hope that this doesn’t become the hot potato issue that evolution has become in Texas.

Scridb filter


  1. Corey Meyer
    Thu 23rd Jan 2014 at 10:56 pm


    I think you view on the subject is spot on. This is just an attempt to preach “American Exceptionalism”. While we can offer up examples of American Exceptionalism, we can also offer up examples where we fell short and those should be taught side by side in my opinion.

    If I remember right Kevin Levin and Richard Williams from Old Virginia Blog argued the idea of American Exceptionalism in the past…might be something you want to look into.


  2. Michael
    Thu 23rd Jan 2014 at 11:22 pm

    James Madison himself denied the concept of trict constitutionalism.

  3. Dennis
    Fri 24th Jan 2014 at 7:01 am

    Education as stated is teaching how, not what to think. These boys probably miss the Alien and Sedition Acts too.


  4. Chris Evans
    Fri 24th Jan 2014 at 6:07 pm

    Now here we go. They (who shall remain nameless) always rail about too much Government interference and then they want to tell people how they can teach history to people.

    I hope all of the good and the bad of American history would be taught. They have a bundle of contradictions with Andrew Jackson. I wonder how they teach him to people.

    I guess a good production of ‘Inherit the Wind’ should tour Tennessee because they are so obsessed about how things should be taught.


  5. BillF
    Fri 24th Jan 2014 at 8:51 pm

    From the comments of some of the “liberal” groups it sounds like they want their view of history to be taught…so is their view correct? It sounds like the pendulum is just swinging the other way and this will continue depending on who’s in power. It shouldn’t be this way, but who has the answer?

  6. Ed Flanagan
    Sat 25th Jan 2014 at 10:51 am

    As someone with a BA in History and treats American history with respect, but the teaching of history has always been taught with the biases of the school educators since the days of the McGuffrey Readers.

    I had to choose between American Exceptionalism and something like Howard Zinn’s “The Comrade’s History of Amerka,” I’ll take American Exceptionalism.

  7. E Browne
    Sat 25th Jan 2014 at 12:11 pm

    A horrible piece of legislation. The American Public has a wide view of what the Constitution means and how it is to be interpreted. Students should be free to debate the issues and make their own decisions. The Legislature is wasting their time in meddling with curriculum issues and in trying to mandate their “correct interpretation of the Constitution and of historical events.” There are no “correct” interpretations, just differing viewpoints that need to be argued and debated. These arguments and debates happen all the time in the classrooms and in the courtrooms across this nation.

  8. billyray
    Sat 25th Jan 2014 at 4:20 pm

    This reeks of ethnocentrism and exceptionalism. History is fact, it happened. It should be taught that way, leaving the spin to self interpretation. I agree with you 100 percent on this.

  9. John Foskett
    Sat 25th Jan 2014 at 5:05 pm

    Any attempt by untrained and undereducated politicians or others to dictate “how” history is taught is nothing more than a repetition of what has happened in the old USSR, the Third Reich, North Korea, etc. All of these folks are “thought police”, are generally uninformed themselves, and are a danger to everybody. Hey Ed – how about this? Neither one is a legitimate option. The minute we start lining up for one or the other in lieu of honest inquiry we lose. .

  10. Chris Evans
    Sat 25th Jan 2014 at 10:01 pm

    Hear, hear Mr. Foskett you hit the nail on the head.


  11. Ed Flanagan
    Thu 06th Feb 2014 at 3:09 pm

    Hey John & Chris-

    Guess what! The both of you missed the mark on what I had to say. The great difference between the America and the old USSR, the Third Reich, North Korea et al, is that in America, Glenn Beck and Howard Zinn can write their version of American history. You can’t remove the biases of the authors, educators, publishers and worst, politicians and activists of all political stripes.

  12. Patricia Evans
    Thu 06th Feb 2014 at 5:04 pm

    I was agreeing with the part of Mr. Foskett’s argument that stated:
    “Any attempt by untrained and undereducated politicians or others to dictate “how” history is taught is nothing more than a repetition of what has happened in the old USSR, the Third Reich, North Korea, etc. All of these folks are “thought police”, are generally uninformed themselves, and are a danger to everybody”.

    I thought that really stated the situation quite well.


  13. Matt McKeon
    Fri 07th Feb 2014 at 5:17 pm

    This bill is the greatest achievement of Tennessee education since the Scopes Monkey Trial.

  14. Chris Evans
    Fri 07th Feb 2014 at 9:05 pm

    Isn’t it, though?


  15. John Foskett
    Sun 09th Feb 2014 at 5:16 pm

    Ed: You’re apparently the one who missed my point. There’s nothing of value or worth celebrating in choosing between two versions of “history”, each distorted by somebody’s political agenda. And we are indeed talking about an equivalence to the totalitarian regimes I mentioned because if you or some school board mandates the teaching of any distorted “spin doctor” version of history in a state, that’s the same thing.

  16. J. Kelly
    Mon 24th Feb 2014 at 5:17 pm

    Hmm. From reading the details, like, oh, actually following the Constitution, I’m not sure why some of you are so up in arms over this nor am I quite sure what “indoctrination” you are exactly concerned about. If you’re worried about the politicization of this, you (and especially liberals) should know that everything is politicized these days. Since I see no discussion here about the indoctrinization by liberal professors/teachers, most of print media, and all of the major network news programs, it seems to me you’re expressing selective outrage. Personally, I’d like to see more positive stuff about this great country, than the “blame” America stuff we get from stuffy professors and news commentators or from our own President who went on a ridiculous apology tour.

  17. J. Lapeer
    Sat 01st Mar 2014 at 11:06 pm

    Since I generally agree with the proposition that (1) The past controls the future, and (2) The present controls the past, I submit that subtle attempts to rewrite history have seem to be accelerating the past few years. This mostly due to progressive (liberal) thinking in our society in general and teaching in our educational system in particular. Here is a possible example: the 150th anniversary of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address was this past November. In commemoriation of this anniversary, our President chose to read a version that omitted “under God” and, yes, there are some versions that excluded this phrase. But there was only one that was given and we know it as the Gettysburg Address. Presumming the President had his choice of which version to read, why the one that didn’t have “under God”? The President’s animus toward religion is generally known, but that’s not my point with regards to rewriting history. I could envision a Lincoln Memorial in DC someday, that had the ‘official and corrected government version of the Gettysburg Address without the mention of God as authoritatively read by our President on it’s 150th Anniversary at some future date. The rewrite of this piece of history (the past) conceivably began last November (the present) that will be subsequently taught in our progressive educational system to our children who may at some point (the future) want to correct this error at this major historical site. After all, it may be claimed, since there were no video cams, iPhones or digital recorders around on November 19, 1863, who knows if Lincoln said “under God” or not?

    I recently read in the January volume of Imprimis an article by Charles R. Keslar from his speech on Oct. 21, 2013 of which I would like to point to this small part, “..what we are seeing in our politics these days is not two clashing interpretations of the same Constitution, but increasingly two different Constitutions in conflict: the old Constitution of 1787 and a “living” Constitution that is not just a different approach to the original, but an alternative to it.” He may be right, which makes me think that it’s all the more important that our children are taught our Bill of Rights and Constitution as written, so they may be able to discern the progressive spin that constitutes a “living” one. It certainly appears that vigilance is called for these days and I can’t find fault with the Tennessee legislature for doing just that.

  18. Matt McKeon
    Thu 27th Mar 2014 at 9:26 pm

    As a teacher, I can assure you I don’t even know what the state guidelines are and could care less. Don’t sweat it too much. The students don’t listen and don’t read the textbooks. So spin away Tennessee! You’ll mostly talking to yourself.

  19. ann jones
    Sat 23rd Aug 2014 at 3:23 am

    while i agree that this proposed legislation is wrong headed, i can also say after having attended public school and community college that the opposite has been true for many many years. history is taught from such a leftist slant that it’s impossible to get a straight factual version in most classrooms.

    so imo, there is a great need to divert away from portraying our country’s events as a giant catalogue of crimes. most instructors are not just left, they are extreme left. i complained to the dean several times about how white men were being continually derided in my history class.

    children don’t care enough to engage critical thinking and that’s what makes partisan teaching such a danger…on both the left and the right. i’m not sure what can be done to avoid it.

  20. Sun 24th Aug 2014 at 6:51 pm

    Forgive me, Ms. Jones, but what leftist slant are you talking about? Please give me an example or two, if you would, as I have no clue what you’re talking about.

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